Durga puja is celebrated in the worship of Durga, the Hindu goddess who is the form of Shakti. This festival is celebrated every year in the Ashwin month of a bright lunar fortnight as per the Bikram Sambat Calendar. This festival is considered very auspicious since it also celebrates the victory of good over evil. It was on this day that Durga is said to have killed the demon Mahishasura.
According to mythology, it is said that Mahishasura, who was a demon, after years of worship and penance finally got the opportunity to request Brahma of a boon. The boon was that no human or a deity will be able to kill him. After this boon, Mahishasura swelled with pride and being invincible, he took disadvantage of his powers and started spreading terror and damage. He transformed into a strong and unbeatable buffalo demon and had killed thousands of innocent people. He soon started attacking Gods as well. To put an end to this, the three most important deities Vishnu, Shankar and even Brahma with other Gods combined all their power and energies to give birth to Durga. Durga has ten hands an each of her hands is a representation of the power she has and it is with these powers that Durga killed Mahishasura. The day she vanquished this demon is today known as Mahalaya.
The Skanda Purana indicates that the name of Durga is given to the goddess Parvati, consort of Siva, when she kills the Asura Durgama. Her qualities as a Goddess are denoted by her names as well. She is Universal Mother. As Uma, Lord Shiva’s wife, she is seen as a protector and a mother figure. Goddess Durga is the symbol of 3 states : Creative, Preservative and Destructive. Various forms of Goddess Durga are Chandi, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Maha Saraswati are Her divine forms. Each form of the Devi has a distinctive role meant for a definite purpose.
Prakriti is a complete concept of the three gunas. Sattva is characterized by brilliance, knowledge, equanimity and lightness. Rajas is characterized by movement, dynamism, ambition, attachment and reactivity or raga. Tamas is characterized by ignorance, delusion and inertia, the power of resistance. The entire manifest world is subject to the influence of the three gunas.
Then began the battle between that Devi and the asuras, Goddess Durga, the Shakti and energy and anger turned against evil, set herself to destroy the armies of Mahishasura. Mahisasura’s general, named Chiksura and Chamara fought. A asura named Udagra, Mahahanu, Asiloman, and Baskala with huge army fought in that battle. Privarita with many thousands of elephants and horses, fought in that battle. Showering Her own weapons and arms, Goddess Chandika too, quite playfully, cut into pieces all those weapons and arms. With gods and sages extolling Her, showing no signs of fatigue on Her face, the Goddess Iswari hurled Her weapons and arms at the bodies of the asuras. The mount of the Goddess, the lion, shaking its mane in rage, stalked amidst the armies of the asuras like a fire. The Goddess Ambika, fighting in the battle created and devastated the army. Ciksura, the great asura general, proceeded in anger to fight with Ambika. He showered arrows on the Goddess in battle just as a cloud showers rain on the peak of Mount Meru. Camara also came agreesively towards devi Ambika Devi’s Lion injured Camara in the battle. Udagra was killed in the battle by the Devi. Karala was brought down. Devi pulverised Uddhata with the blows of Her mace. She killed Baskala with a javelin and destroyed Tamra and Andhaka with arrows. The Supreme Iswari killed Ugrasya, Ugravirya and Mahahanu too with her trident. With Her sword She struck down Bidala’s head from his body, and dispatched both Durdhara and Durmudha to the abode of Death with Her arrows.
• Ten arms of Maa Durga:
Goddess Durga is depicted as having eight or ten hands. These represent eight quadrants or ten directions in Hinduism. This suggests that she protects the devotees from all directions.
• Three Eyes of Maa Durga:
Like Shiva, Goddess Durga is also referred to as “Triyambake” meaning the three eyed Goddess. The left eye represents desire (the moon), the right eye represents action (the sun), and the central eye knowledge (fire).
• The Vehicle of Maa Durga:
The lion represents power, will and determination. Goddess Durga riding the lion symbolises the Goddess’ mastery over all these qualities. Devi Durga is portrayed standing on a lion in a fearless pose of “Abhay Mudra” signifying assurance of freedom from fear. The universal Mother seems to be saying to all her devotees:
“Surrender all actions and duties onto me and I shall release thee from all fears”.
• The ‘Conch Shell’ in Her hand symbolizes the ‘Pranava’ or the mystic word ‘Om’, which indicates Her holding on to God in the form of sound.
• The ‘Bow and Arrow’ represent energy. By holding both the bow and arrow in one hand, “Mother Durga” indicates Her control over both aspects of energy – potential and kinetic.
• The ‘Thunderbolt’ signifies firmness. One must be firm like thunderbolt in one’s convictions. Similar to thunderbolt that can break anything against which it strikes without being affected itself, the devotee should to undertake a challenge without losing his confidence.
• The ‘Lotus’ in Her hand is not in full bloom which symbolizes the certainty of success but not finality.
• The “Sudarshan-Chakra” which spins around the index finger of the Goddess signifies that the entire world is subservient to the will of Her and is at Her command. She uses this unfailing weapon to destroy evil and produce an environment conducive to the growth of righteousness.
• The ‘Sword’ that She holds in one of Her hands symbolizes knowledge, which has the sharpness of a sword.
• The ‘Trident or Trishul’ is a symbol of three qualities – Satwa (inactivity), Rajas (activity) and Tamas (non-activity) – and that She is the remover of all the three types of miseries – physical, mental and spiritual.